It may come as a surprise to many that the first commercial planting of Shiraz in Australia wasn’t in the Barossa. It was near a place called Branxton in the Hunter region of NSW.
It was planted out in 1830 by George Wyndham on a property he named “Dalwood”. He was an unconventional and headstrong man and somewhat of a radical. He was born into landed gentry in England, deciding to emigrate to Australia for life as a farmer after refusing an English Government posting, whose policies he didn’t agree with.
Over the years the wine became world renown, a number of prizes and trophies were taken, including bronze and silver medals in the Paris International Exhibition of 1867. And at one time the vineyard was the second largest in New South Wales, with those 1830 vines still producing fruit in 1966, the winery eventually becoming part of Pernod Ricard when they purchased the Wyndham Estate winery in 1990.
The Wyndham Estate label has gone onto become one of the most recognised labels on the shelves of your local bottleo, from the Bin range that often surprise with their quality and “back the truck up” price points, along with their excellent but very hard to find Black Cluster Shiraz, named after the variety that finally allowed George some winemaking success.
To celebrate the life of this versatile man Wyndham have released a new range of wine called “I am George” all paying homage to chapters of George’s life. The wines themselves are interestingly labelled, they’ll fit right in at a 70’s psychedelic themed night, the names sounding like they rolled straight out of a 70’s English cop show “George the Fixer” for example.
The range is split into two levels, I AM GEORGE core range, comprised of three wines that is available at most retailers with a $19.99 RRP, and a $24.99 RRP “Chronicles” range, a range of five wines. It’s interesting to note here that the winery has decided to make some of these exclusively available to some retailers and not others. Two are exclusive to the Coles group, two to the Woolworths group and one available at independent retailers with one of the big retailers choosing to drop their shelf price to $20, which makes these a serious choice for the upcoming silly season
Both ranges have been made from fruit harvested from vineyards across Australia’s best leading wine regions, creating wines that vary from varietal blends, to pure bold and robust varietal expressions, and one multi-region blend. All offer interesting drinking, with the Chronicle range being able to carry some bottle age.
The winemakers are making it pretty easy and uncomplicated here. They are making wines that are pure expressions of the growing region, if you like those green notes of capsicum, crushed tomato leaf and mint notes in a Coonawarra Cabernet, it’s all right there in the glass. You prefer the elegant balance and sweet fresh fruits in a Margaret River Cabernet? Then its right there in that bottle. Find the style you like, at the price you like, and your tastebuds will thank you for it.
My picks of the bunch:
George THE WIZARD Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 – I quite enjoyed this, and I came back to it again and again, it tastes exactly what I think a Coonawarra cab should, bright red fruits with some subtle chocolate mint notes and light touch of cedar, on the tongue there’s some green herb and a light touch of green capsicum, mulberry and blackberry, a light black olive and leather note that will develop deeper with a bit of time in the cellar. Will hold for the next five years or so with careful cellaring. Available exclusively at Woolworths outlets $23.80.
George THE FIXER McLaren Vale Shiraz 2016 – a typical McLaren Vale Shiraz is a little softer, less tannic and more quaffable than a Barossa Shiraz, this is still full bodied, and well balanced, and just oh so easy to drink. Some bright red fruit characters supported by black pepper and woody spice. Will make an excellent go to wine for Xmas cocktail parties, and will carry for about ten years in the bottle if you buy too much. Available at Coles outlets $19.
George THE FIXER Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – a wine that most of the tasting group gravitated back to, shows the structure and elegance that the area is known for, not a big deep wine but is full of flavour. Dusty spices, dark notes of blackberry, blackcurrant and dark cherry notes, a touch of vanilla, and some dry leafiness in there too, with just the faintest touch of dry seaweed/nori sheet, a late hit of tobacco leaf and coffee notes on the finish. Will benefit from a year in the bottle, and will carry about five years. Exclusive to Coles outlets $19.